Ada and Minna Everleigh

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Ada Everleigh
Minna Everleigh
Ada (top) and Minna Everleigh, in portraits commissioned in Omaha, Nebraska in 1895.

Ada and Minna Everleigh, born Ada and Minna Simms, were two sisters who operated the Everleigh Club, a high-priced brothel in the Levee District of Chicago[1] during the first decade of the twentieth century.[2] Ada, the eldest, was born in Greene County, Virginia on February 15, 1864,[2][3] and died in Charlottesville, Virginia on January 5, 1960.[2][4] Minna was born in Greene County on July 13, 1866[2][3] and died in New York, New York on September 16, 1948.[2]

Biography[edit]

Alternative biography[edit]

The sisters claimed an alternative biography, which has long been accepted as factual. Better research has provided more accuracy.[5]

According to their story, Minna and Ada Simms were born outside of Louisville, Kentucky in 1876 to a wealthy lawyer who had fled to Kentucky from Virginia when Benedict Arnold invaded Virginia in 1781. The two sisters had been to finishing school and had proper social debuts. When Minna was seventeen, she says, she married a man whose last name was Lester who turned out to be abusive. Ada claimed to have been married to Lester's brother, who also turned out to be abusive. After both marriages had failed, they became actresses. Claiming their father died in the early 1890s, they said they came into a legacy of $35,000.

Early life[edit]

According to Abbott, whose research included an interview with the sisters' great niece, Minna and Ada were born in Greene County, Virginia to Montgomery and Virginia "Jennie" Simms, the second and third of four daughters. Their mother died when they were young, as did their sisters. There were three brothers, who all survived to adulthood. Although the family was wealthy at the time of their birth, they lost much of their wealth during the Civil War[6] and the family lost their plantation when they couldn't pay their taxes.[7] Both sisters were married but subsequently divorced.[8]

Later life[edit]

Stranded by a theater company in Omaha, Nebraska, the sisters changed their last name to "Everleigh," adapted from their grandmother's habit of signing letters with "Everly Yours"[8] and opened their first brothel in Omaha in 1895. When the Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition was held in Omaha in 1898 they opened a second brothel in the vicinity of the event in Kountze Park and quickly doubled their investment. They then decided to close their brothels and seek out a more affluent city.[9]

In 1899 they settled in Chicago[6] and on the 1st February 1900 opened a high class brothel called the Everleigh Club which did good business until closed down in 1911.[2]

In November 1905, a rival madam maliciously accused the sisters of the murder of Marshall Field, Jr., son of department store founder Marshall Field.[2]

When the brothel was closed by the city authorities in 1911 Ada was 47 and Minna 45. They then retired with over a million dollar to the West side but were driven out by disapproving neighbours.[6] After travelling around Europe, they changed their name to Lester and settled in New York.[1][2]

Minna Everleigh died in 1948.[10] After Minna's death, Ada Everleigh sold most of her personal belongings and moved to Virginia.[10] Ada Everleigh died in 1960 at the age of 93.[10]

Scarlet Sisters Everleigh[edit]

In 2014 a play called the Scarlet Sisters Everleigh, was produced in Chicago. The play was based on the sisters' life.[11]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Meet the sisters who ran 'the most famous and luxurious house of prostitution in the country'". Timeline. 17 April 2017. Retrieved 7 April 2018. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Everleigh Club". Chicagology. Retrieved 7 April 2018. 
  3. ^ a b Abbott 2007, p. 4.
  4. ^ Abbott 2007, p. 296.
  5. ^ Abbott 2007, pp. 23–46.
  6. ^ a b c Gunderson, Erica Gunderson (July 28, 2017). "Historical Happy Hour: A Toast to the Everleigh Sisters". Chicago Tonight. Retrieved 7 April 2018. 
  7. ^ Wendt & Kogan 1974, pp. 320–322.
  8. ^ a b "The Other Ladies of Prairie Avenue". Chicago Treasure Houses. 18 April 2017. Retrieved 7 April 2018. 
  9. ^ Inghamn, J. (1983), Biographical Dictionary of American Business Leaders, Greenwood Press, p. 354 .
  10. ^ a b c Louise Kiernan. "The Everleigh Club". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved January 26, 2016. 
  11. ^ "Scarlet Sisters Everleigh". Three Cat Productions. Retrieved 7 April 2018. 

References[edit]